Dalton Risner Shares Unique Insight on Broncos' New O-Line Additions
Dalton Risner was one of two Denver Broncos' second-round draft picks last year. The other? Quarterback Drew Lock.
Risner (No. 41 overall) and Lock (42) were drafted back-to-back and ever since, they've been rubbing elbows as rookie roommates and now fast friends. Despite nursing an ankle injury down the stretch, Risner helped keep Lock surprisingly clean during his five-game audition from Weeks 13-17.
As a 16-game starter, Risner's 2019 body of work was enough to earn him All-Rookie honors but don't mention it around him. He's over it and on to bigger and better things.
"My goal above everything else is a Super Bowl," Risner told Aric DiLalla of the team site last week. "That is above and beyond everything else. But if we can get to the Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl, [then] Pro Bowl and All-Pro are definitely huge goals of mine. I'm done with that All-Rookie stuff. I didn't even like that. We've got bigger things to do this year."
By the time the cleats hit the grass later this summer, the Broncos' offensive line will look vastly different than it did during Risner's rookie year. Gone are center Connor McGovern and right guard Ronald Leary.
Of those two vacancies upfront, one of them is spoken for at right guard. The Broncos made ex-Detroit Lion Graham Glasgow a prized free-agent acquisition this past March, easily a top-10 guard in the NFL.
As far as center goes, the Broncos have holdover Patrick Morris but all eyes are on the team's third-round pick this year — Lloyd Cushenberry III — to win the job. Risner spoke on the record about his new teammates for the first time last week and starting with his remarks on Glasgow, there's a lot to take in.
"Graham's a heck of a guy," Risner told the team site. "That's a guy that just signed his second contract. He's been in the NFL for a while. I think he can bring a lot of leadership to the Broncos' offensive line this year. I want to lead right there along with him. I'm going to learn a lot from him, and I hope Graham can learn a lot from me. I hope that we can go to practice and we can show each other what we both do. I can watch film on him, he can watch film on me. He's a really good guy. He's a guy that we want in the room. He's going to bring a lot of athletic ability to the team, he's a consistent guy. You know he's going to get gritty, he's going to be good for us."
As a $44 million man, Glasgow becomes a de facto leader on the Broncos' O-line but anyone who's spent even a little time around Risner can recognize his leadership traits. He oozes them.
Together these two guards can help lead this Broncos' O-line into the next era. As for Cushenberry, he might be a rookie, but the former LSU star is super talented and wicked smart.
"Lloyd's a really bright kid," Risner told the team site. "I got to do OTA meetings with him. I got to see what he's all about. He's someone that cares, he's got passion for the game. He's intelligent. You can tell he's a mastermind of the game of football, and he's going to put in a lot of hard work. I can tell that. No matter who's on each side of me, it doesn't matter. We're going to be well off this year with the Denver Broncos. And I think the coaches, Mr. Elway, they did a phenomenal job of getting the right people around us for us to be successful."
It's an exciting time for the Broncos' O-line. If there is a fly in the ointment, it's the uncertainty at the tackle positions. On one side, Ja'Wuan James — last year's prized free-agent signing — has to prove he can stay on the field at right tackle after he appeared in just three games in 2019, totaling 63 snaps after banking $17M.
The best ability is avail-ability and as we saw in the Broncos' 38-24 road victory over the Houston Texans in Week 14 last year, when he's on the field, James palpably makes the Broncos' offense better. But he has to stay healthy and provide a return on the team's sizable investment.
On the other side is Garett Bolles, who, despite his obvious improvements down the stretch last year after Lock was inserted, will have to sing for his supper this summer in an open competition with Elijah Wilkinson at left tackle. The Broncos chose not to exercise Bolles' fifth-year option, which means this is a contract year now.
If Bolles can vanquish Wilkinson — which is almost a given — and sustain that positive momentum he showed late last year and obvious development under OL Coach Mike Munchak, the Broncos' O-line will have the chance to be extremely good, especially in light of the re-bolstered interior. Like the fans, Risner will be watching Bolles vs. Wilkinson with great interest to see how it shakes out.
"Both of those guys are my brothers," Risner said. "Garett is the first guy that ever talked to me from the Denver Broncos. He was at my draft party. He's treated me like a little brother. I love playing next to that guy. When I heard there was a competition, I definitely knew that Garett and Elijah are going to duke it out together. The best guy will be out there playing and whoever doesn't get that spot is definitely still going to get playing time next year.
"… I think they're going to work out, do a heck of a job and we'll see who wins."
Risner spent time last week serving at the Denver Rescue Mission. A native of Wiggins, CO, Risner has been very active in the Denver community since arriving last spring as a Bronco and his Risner Up Foundation has worked with Special Olympics and people suffering from serious illnesses, with a focus on spreading the word of God.
The Broncos are fortunate to have him. And soon, he'll be stomping around the UC Health Training Center when the team kicks off training camp on July 28. In the wake of an entire offseason of football training canceled due to the pandemic, Risner is champing at the bit to get back at it.
"We didn't get to do OTAs, haven't been able to meet a lot of the new additions to the team, haven't been able to be around our coaches and our teammates," Risner told the team site. "Of course, we want that. Of course, the world needs to be safe before we can do that. But man, we just want to play some football so bad. I'm ready to get back out there and have a heck of a year."